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Showing posts from 2016

Campaign Tarot - #TrailOfCthulhu

I'm quite pleased with the latest iteration of my Roll20 "home screen" - this time for a Trail of Cthulhu campaign.    Rather than repeating my Incident Board idea from my Night's Black Agent's Campaign I've gone more for a classic desk-top look with cards representing the key locations and characters appearing in the episode.

This one is set up for the end of an adventure in which valiant Boston cops take down "The Boston Devil" a cannibalistic serial killer after gaining advice from (real life) anthropologists Richard Speck and Gladys Tantaquidgeon whose likenesses appear at the top-centre of the layout and who first introduced the investigators to the concept of Wendigo...

Soul Stone of Kulthai - an adventure of Barbarians of Lemuria

When a group of heroes set off in search of wealth and vengeance against a sect of foul Warlocks they are called on to free a warrior's soul from torment.   Things get nasty.

Soul Stone of Kulthai is an adventure and micro-setting for Barbarians of Lemuria.   The PDF link is HERE.   Take, change, use and abuse it and let me know what you think.

The Ink Dipped Wand

Some words from the Sage of Northampton, as recorded in an interview here which bear repeating:

The Bardic tradition of magic, when satires were justifiably more feared than curses and when the creator was respected as a powerful magician rather than as someone getting by out on the fringes of the entertainment industry, is one that today’s artists, occultists and writers would do well to reacquaint themselves with. You can kill or cure with a word. Get off of your knees.
Sir Terry Pratchett commented through one of his many characters that the human race has a design fault - we bend at the knees.   Today there are a great many forces designed to trick or coerce or simply brutalise us to our knees, because it is only then that the stunted troglodytes who seek to rule us can believe themselves greater than we are.   I suspect that those forces are on the edge of increasing their hold on the world and on the power structures that will give them more authority.

Don't let them.   Don&…

The Ink Dipped Wand

Some words from the Sage of Northampton, as recorded in an interview here which bear repeating:

The Bardic tradition of magic, when satires were justifiably more feared than curses and when the creator was respected as a powerful magician rather than as someone getting by out on the fringes of the entertainment industry, is one that today’s artists, occultists and writers would do well to reacquaint themselves with. You can kill or cure with a word. Get off of your knees.
Sir Terry Pratchett commented through one of his many characters that the human race has a design fault - we bend at the knees.   Today there are a great many forces designed to trick or coerce or simply brutalise us to our knees, because it is only then that the stunted troglodytes who seek to rule us can believe themselves greater than we are.   I suspect that those forces are on the edge of increasing their hold on the world and on the power structures that will give them more authority.

Don't let them.   Don&…

Aru-Kamis: CIty of the Lich King #BarbariansOfLemuria

In response to some positive feedback I've put together a short document detailing a setting I've been using for Barbarians of Lemuria (Mythic Edition, not that it matters).    This is one particular city in one particular country and it's a useful jumping off point for several different types of adventure.

It can become the home base for your heroes, or a final destination on a quest to discover dark horrors, or it can be the setting for adventure itself with plot hooks inherent in the setting for everything from palace intrigue, to cosmic horror, to street level skullduggery.

Use what you can, change, adapt, bend fold spindle etc and I hope it proves of interest.

If it does, I'd love to hear what works.


At the Mountains of Harrogate - #TrailOfCthulhu

Okay this is not strictly a gaming post but it will I'm sure be of interest to some gamers.   HP Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" has been turned into a play and I went to see it last night at the Studio Theatre in Harrogate.

It was the last performance in Harrogate but I know it's also been performed in other venues and will continue to be:  The production company's website is Here

The play is a one-actor piece, with Royal Shakespeare Company actor and RADA lecturer Tim Hardy delivering a bravura and strung out performance as a desperate William Dyer pleading with his fellow scientists not to repeat his mistake and carry out an exploration of the heart of Antarctica.  He reluctantly recounts the tale, aided by radio-broadcast flashbacks of the voices of the other members of his team and incredible lighting and audio effects.

The piece was dramatic, compelling and very true to the original tale and I really recommend that anyone who gets a chance to …

Commonplace Cullen - #TrailOfCthulhu #FearItself #Esoterrorists

A friend of mine shared the following humorous graphic on Liber Faciem recently:

And there is more than a modicum of truth to it. I've recently taken to jotting down simple ideas as they occur to me using the web tool Trello as a scratchpad (though anything would work of course) because I know full well that if I wait till I actually have some time to myself the ideas will all have run together like coloured plasticine and their bright hues lost in the murky brown average of "Uhhhh what now..."

My list was originally going to be a list of potential story seeds for my Trail of Cthulhu campaign but having taken the time to review them I think that some may be more suited to one-shots of a Fear Itself nature or possibly (in one particular case) an Esoterrorists investigation.

I'll probably get round to fleshing out one or more of these at some point and figured that if I post them here it will provide a spur in my side to actually get on and do it, and there's also …

HP Lovecraft and the Opera Ghost #TrailOfCthulhu

I came across something today that puzzled me at first and then intrigued me.

I found this essay online - "The Horror on the Wall" by ST Joshi about Lovecraft's opinion of movies, and in it was a passage about a favourite of mine which I am glad to hear that Lovecraft also rated highly - the Phantom of the Opera, starring Lon Chaney (in my opinion one of the finest actors who has ever brought his art to the screen.  That is only my opinion but you are entitled to disagree and that's fine as long as you don't mind your opinion being held in justified contempt by right thinking folks).

Lovecraft saw Phantom in 1925 and wrote this:
 ". . . what a spectacle it was!! It was about a *presence* haunting the great Paris opera house . . . but developed so slowly that I actually fell asleep several times during the first part. Then the second part began--horror lifted its grisly visage--& I could not have been made drowsy by all the opiates under heaven! Ugh!!! Th…

Found Carcosa #TrailOfCthulhu

I’ve been plundering the themes and flavours of Chambers’ work recently but today for the first time I came across this little gem.
The Carcosa mansion, built in 1896 to 1897 was intended as the residence of the British High Commissioner in Malaya.  It’s now a luxury hotel though given the antecedents of the name I suspect that the much vaunted Hotel California would be a safer place to visit.
The name was taken straight out of Chambers’ work as Sir Frank Swettenham, the aforementioned High Commissioner, explained:
To the Editor of “British Malaya” [British Malaya, May 1936] SIR, In the April magazine your correspondent in Malaya asks me, in courteous terms, to tell him why I gave the name “Carcosa” to the house that was designed and built for me at Kuala Lumpur by the late Mr. C.E. Spooner, assisted by Mr. A.B. Hubback – as he was in those days – and I have no objection to answer the question even though the simple truth may spoil a number of excellent stories. When this house was finis…

Rolling out the rules #NightsBlackAgents

I've been running a Night's Black Agents campaign for a while now, the Pelgrane game of elite spies versus vampires and the rules, the ideas for structuring campaigns and the atmosphere have all combined into being one of the most involving and exciting games I've played in a gaming career that goes back far longer than I am comfortable admitting.

For most of those years of gaming I've been pretty emphatically anti-crunch.  I've played with players, lovely each one of them, that fall everywhere on the spectrum from "pure story" to "pure number crunching" but I've always been biased toward the former end.   Consequently I've tended to favour systems that are light on mechanics and that de-emphasise combat detail in favour of narrative immediacy.

However in Night's Black Agents the details actually do their damned job and make the game more exciting.   The core mechanics of the Gumshoe system are simple enough to make intuitive sense …

The Gate of Amen-Ekot #TrailOfCthulhu

They say (but you know the sort of thing They say) that the much reviled sorcerer of the lower Nile, Amen-Ekot boasted that he could never be truly slain by his many enemies because he had entrusted his vital essence to a safer place than "any vault of all too perishable carrion meat" as he charmingly referred to his own body.

His enemies decided that they'd take the risk and slew him, cutting his perishable carrion meat into exactly forty one pieces, each one of which was burned seperately.

None of them were happy to hear reports of his reappearance less than a month later.

It transpired that the fellow had found a way to paint his likeness, or his symbolic likeness at any rate (since in reality he did not have the head of a blasphemously disfigured ibis) into the hieroglyphs and frescoes of a local shrine.   They beady eye of that foul painting could captivate the viewer and by an act of will (that will being often overborne by the sorcerer's dread intent) could d…

"You don't need two hands to hold a severed head." - #NightsBlackAgents

"You don't need two hands to hold a severed head."

You know that the session of Night's Black Agents has taken a dark turn when one of the player characters muses aloud along those lines.

Last night's session ended up with Hans losing enough Stability to be Shattered for the first time anyone's hit that state in the campaign after witnessing someone who they thought was a potential ally massacring a group of innocent bystanders at a barbecue, just after an encounter with the revived corpse of someone Rowan had killed in cold blood in a previous session (the former owner of the aforementioned severed head) and a furious thespian vampire who had just ripped out Rowan's throat (she'll live - barely) following Rowan's taunts about her being second rate.

If things needed to go further south, Hans was having flashbacks to a mission gone wrong in Belarus as he drove to the safehouse where their friendly medic lives and recalled in vivid detail the time he h…

The Lodger of Arkham - Handouts #TrailOfCthulhu

Yesterday I finished the opening storyline in my new Trail of Cthulhu campaign (this one just me running it and a single player – the Gumshoe One2One rules may not be out yet but we’re muddling along fairly well) and the player and I had a great time.   Gumshoe is now firmly established as my favourite system and the simple seeming core concept of giving the investigator their clues without hassle if they have the appropriate expertise helps much more than you’d expect.   Adapting to the mentality of giving the player all the clues they could need actually helps things flow so much better and doesn’t detract from the fun – quite the reverse as the more leads there are available the more player agency is experienced.

My plan for the campaign is to start things off nice and small – the player character is a Boston detective on leave after dealing with a traumatic cannibalistic serial killer case (*cough Wendigo cough*) and following up some strange loose ends.   The first took him to a…

Twentyfirst Century Spoor - useful resources for clues in #nightsblackagents

Just a brief post to share a useful resource I found.   In "Red Shift" my Night's Black Agents campaign I'm enjoying laying out an ocean of clues for the agents to swim in.    Among the various trails they're following they've become connected with a group of students who they met at a performance of the King in Yellow.    One of them started acting strangely... then fell ill...  

I thought that it was likely that the agents would try to piece together what had brought him to this and what better way of checking out the backstory of a modern student than checking his social media accounts?

This site here (LINKY)  has generators to create fake Tweets, Facebook entries and smartphone text conversations.    I created a few examples for the agents to find as they dug in and they were well received when I provided the "screenshots" rather than just an account of what they'd found.

Some examples:


Anyone fancy a new roleplaying campaign set in a dystopian isolated nation with a crumbling economy and a rising trend of fascism?

Oh yeah.  The UK does.

Achy Breaky Stability Check #nightsblackagents

In last night's session of Night's Black Agents a vampire nearly houseruled the system spontaneously by so clearly failing a stability test it took the Director- me- aback.

Okay so vampires don't make stability tests, nor did I roll one.   But it sure as hell felt like he failed one.

Here's a bit of backstory to set the context.

In 1917 Captain Nathaniel Soames was crippled during a shell attack in Belgium during the Great War.  His pelvis and legs were shattered and he was paralysed from the waist down, surviving only because he was dragged back from No Man's Land by a cockney infantryman Private Harry Sparrow.

Sparrow was an up and coming gangster in the immediate post war years and he was startled to be approached one evening by his former Captain, Soames, healthy as can be and offering Sparrow anything he wanted to set the balance straight.   Sparrow asked for prosperity for his band of miscreants and Soames promised him a century of unhindered dominance over …

Long Night at Blackthorn - a Barbarians of Lemuria Adventure

I've just finished work on a new Barbarians of Lemuria adventure - this one using the Mythic Edition rules which I treated myself to recently - Long Night at Blackthorn.  A stopover at a remote inn proves to be filled with trouble as other patrons and their agendas all clash on a night when dark forces are let loose.

The adventure itself is adapted from one I've previously run for Fate Core and which I think fits with the darker side of the Sword and Sorcery Genre

While light of mass combat and mayhem this scenario works best as a single night adventure perhaps as a break in an already ongoing journey though, as usual, I've left a few exit points in the storyline that could lead to further adventures.

I'd be glad to know what you think of it, and if you've managed to get any use from it.

Download HERE

Party Time #fatecore

Yesterday's session of the Sundered Seven fantasy campaign took place entirely within one room (with a short side trip to a wine cellar), lacked combat, treasure or magic and was still one of the most intense sessions of any roleplaying game I've played.

Our heroes Lord Adriel and his faithful servant Inye had arrived in Hrafburg, capital city of Malmor, to seek an audience with the ruler of the city.  He had reacted in his usual arrogant way (the man has royal pretensions) and told them he would send for them when ready and so Adriel was forced to kill time in the city until then.

We opened at the lavish party being held by Lord Hazreth a newly arrived nobleman who enjoyed offering hospitality.    All the haute monde were there and there was an atmosphere of casual decadence.   Adriel was enjoying the company of two of the eligible ladies of the court (one of whom turned out to be the ruler's mistress... so that wasn't a source of tension... really)

But things really …

Be Prepared. #nightsblackagents

This very practical travel kit for the aspiring vampire hunter went on sale in North Yorkshire in 2012 and raised £7500 at auction.

It was put together in the 19th century and contained all the stuff you'd expect:

A crucifix
Stakes and a mallet
A Pistol
Glass bottle of Holy Water, another of consecrated earth, another of garlic paste
The Book of Common Prayer
A handwritten Bible verse (Luke 19:27 "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.")

It was left to a Yorkshire woman in her uncle's will and apparently dates from the late 1800s.   The auction house, Tennants of Leyburn, North Yorkshire,  commented it was probably a novelty item put together to capitalise on the property of Bram Stoker's Dracula.  A likely story.

Bidding was apparently fierce with half a dozen telephone bidders involved in the auction and it went for about four times the price expected.

It's current owner and location are as yet no…

A Night At The Theatre - #nightsblackagents

In the next session my players have suggested their characters are following up a lead they got from a crumpled programme in the pocket of a dead man, and they're going to the theatre that the programme was advertising.

What could possibly go wrong?

The Outcast Dead - #nightsblackagents

The agents in my Night’s Black Agents campaign are following a number of leads in London, and one of the cases involved the discovery of (and subsequent disappearance of) a victim’s body in a street in Southwark.   I chose Southwark because it’s an area with a history of poverty and people on the fringes, such as mudlarks and toshers dating back a couple of hundred years.    I was also aware that it was the home to a large number of prostitutes in the past, licensed by the Bishop of Winchester and hence known as Winchester Geese.   When I googled the term to add some colour to this quaint bit of background I discovered that Southwark was also home to the Cross Bones unconsecrated graveyard, the site of which now bears this delightful notice.

The Outcast Dead.

This stuff writes itself.

Red Shift: London - #nightsblackagents - Clue Summary

Just a short update this week - our valiant agents made it to London and made a brief and paranoid contact with a Scotland Yard detective named Templeton.   Templeton stumbled onto the shadowy world of vampires a few months ago with the (brief) discovery of the body of a young runaway... which body then vanished along with a quarter of an hour of memory.

In that brief interview with Rowan, Templeton provided a number of leads... as summarised below:

So far Rowan and Hans have just scratched the surface as shown above... I'm looking forward to seeing which direction they go in and how deep they can get.

Five Lights - An Adventure for Barbarians of Lemuria

I've recently become enchanted by the simplicity and clarity of Barbarians of Lemuria - a role playing game in the Sword & Sorcery genre.

To that end I present "Five Lights" an adventure in which our heroes are called upon to rescue a fair maiden, probably against her will, from a new religious movement.   All things are, as you would expect, not what they seem.

The pdf can be downloaded HERE, and feel free of course to tweak things as you wish to suit your play style and group.

Red Shift - Episode Six - Calais and Paris - #nightsblackagents Play Report

After Sunday’s action packed episode, last night’s visit to the bloody world of Night’s Black Agents was one of evasion and consolidation.   Having had to flee from a murder scene, Hans and Rowan dug in at their safe house and ran through what they’d learned.   The word “vampire” was used for the first time with the comment that “it’s crazy but it’s the best fitting theory so far”.
Rowan contacted their Control at RedShift via a text message to their handler GAUNTLET to let them know what had happened.
This was shortly followed by a protocol breaching phone-call in return:
“This is Gauntlet, this is Gauntlet.   You’re burned.   Don’t report in.  Don’t come in.  Go dark.”
Hot on the heels of that disquieting message came a text from RedShift from an unfamiliar codename, Firebird.
6676 Firebird. Message Received. Fall back to rendezvous Alpha Six for debriefing. See you soon
After a moment’s silence the pair decided simultaneously.   No way were they going to report in now.   They moved …

Red Shift Episode 5 - Calais - #nightsblackagents Play Highlights

Last night started nice and easy with a quiet interview in Star Logistics with the secretary, a bored woman named Jeanne who was happy to chat with the potential client - Rowan with a fake identity - and let slip about the infrequent all-night shifts that the boss and his drivers pulled.   Rowan also got a chance to sneak a closer look at the transit van parked up with its rear doors against the building wall... and noticed just how cold the air was as she passed close to it, and found herself flashing back to the hallucinatory shower of blood she experienced in Casablanca.

After that they tracked the gangster Danglars to an abandoned construction site and exercised some bad ass infiltration skills to move through that place like ghosts.   In the climactic scene of the evening Rowan located some of the trafficking victims and began escorting them out while Hans confronted their captors.     The captors, as it turned out, were not what they seemed to be.

The first, Janos, when covered…

Night's Black Answers - a player's response to my questions for #NightsBlackAgents

In my last post I shared a short list of questions I'd asked the players in my Night's Black Agents campaign in the hope of generating some backstory details I could plunder for drama and complications.

Tonight Rowan's player replied - and instead of just answering the questions she copied me into a folder containing documents... a briefing document, an after action interview, and others with more game-related stuff.

I was blown away at the response anyway and then she pointed out that the group her character infiltrated was  real one, and the dates given corresponded to a real event of the type she described.  She did ask me to redact the name of the group just in case...     So I have.   But here is the response I got tonight.  I feel a very lucky GM indeed to be receiving campaign handouts from my players.

PDF Version

Night's Black Questions - quick backstory for #nightsblackagents characters

I'm a handful of adventures into my Night's Black Agents campaign and we're all getting a feel for the characters.    Having refreshed my exposure to the spy/thriller genre I've noticed that most protagonists have something lurking in their pasts that made a big impact on them.  

"He'd never been the same since Kiev" "Look, about that time in Madrid... " / "Never mention that again." "Miller dropped his hand, numb, this was too much like the failed extraction in Tokyo" Her thoughts drifted back to the moonless night camped near Petra, and the whispers that became roars.
So, following on from my recent use of directed questions in my Fate campaign I've just forwarded the following mini questionnaire to my NBA players.   Knowing them I'm sure they'll provide some interesting backstory and plot-hooks from their previous lives...
The One That Ended Badly
Where was the mission?
What was the objective?
Was the objective acc…

Red Shift episode 4: Calais - Night's Black Agents play report

Rowan and Hans regrouped after a few days of downtime during which Hans reminisced with an old special forces buddy back in Sweden and Rowan enjoyed an illicit few days of romance and hot funky adulterous action with her (married) lover, a former colleague of hers.   He floated the idea of her coming back to the group, telling her how her expertise at making and running networks of agents would be useful in the increasingly fragmented Middle East.  She declined.

The new job in Calais sounded straightforward enough.   There were rumours of a human trafficking operation there, and a local resident named Bernard Masson had enough money and sense of civic duty to want it stopped.  He was willing to pay good money, very good money, for evidence of what was going on and could point the team  toward a couple of good leads - a haulage company and a local gangster, both of whom were likely to be involved.

Rowan and Hans set watch on the haulage company and saw the local gangster, Danglars, ma…